National Immigration Forum

Practical Solutions for Immigrants and America

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DHS: If It’s Broke, Fix It

February 12, 2009 - Posted by Mario Moreno


The Migration Policy Institute, a well respected non-partisan think-tank here in Washington D.C., issued a lengthy report on what the Obama Administration can do to improve the efficiency of the Department of Homeland Security and improve our immigration system.  Both in terms of legal immigration and enforcement, there is a long list of things that can be improved without the passage of any additional legislation.


The report takes a common sense approach to how the three major immigration-related components of DHS do their jobs and how DHS as a whole should be run with respect to immigration.  The authors of the report, former Clinton INS Commissioner Doris Meissner and former Director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC) were joined by former Bush (43) INS Commissioner Jim Ziglar.


The Washington Post story on the report looked mainly at the more symbolic aspects of reform covered by the report, like the border fence and the so-called “zero tolerance” enforcement policies that seek to charge as many immigrants as possible with assorted criminal violations:


Overall, the authors suggested that DHS should target enforcement against criminal networks that sustain large-scale illegal migration and that could aid terrorists; against employers who rely on illegal workers to gain unfair competitive advantage or whom terrorists may attempt to infiltrate; and routinely bring criminal charges against individuals only when they are repeat-offenders or have committed unrelated crimes.


By contrast, the Bush administration quadrupled criminal prosecutions of immigration violators between 2003 and 2008, to 79,400, in part through programs such as Operation Streamline, which filed minor charges against virtually all people caught crossing parts of the Texas and Arizona borders. Advocates say such programs are an effective deterrent that reduce illegal crossing. – Spencer Hsu, “Advisory Group Urges Freeze on Construction of Border Fence,” Washington Post, February 11, 2009


The New York Times talked to the President of NCLR, who cautioned lawmakers not to think the report lets them off the hook when it comes to immigration reform.


“The conventional wisdom is that the economy makes this a difficult issue,” said Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza. “I think there’s also some countervailing wisdom that says how can you have a debate on jobs without talking about the 12 million people who are here without documents?” – Ginger Thompson, “Report Faults Homeland Security’s Efforts on Immigration,” New York Times, February 12, 2009


As John Wilhelm, President for Hospitality Industries of the restaurant and hotel workers union UNITE HERE, in a Forum press conference, posed this question that cuts to the heart of the matter -how can we fix the economy without addressing immigration and the legal status of the 1 in 20 workers in the U.S. economy who are undocumented?



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